project image
Patrice Miller

first performed on October 27, 2020
The artist's basement
performed once in 2020


Brooklyn, NY


“Séance for Sylvia” is a performance that begins with a modified “occult” ritual and evolves into a movement-based performance wherein I invite Sylvia Plath into the room. Using quarter candles, recordings of Plath’s voice, ritual, and choreographic scores, the ten-minute piece used the vulnerability and unpredictable nature of the Séance to encounter the nuances of Plath’s work in real time, working against the often espoused autobiographical reading of the work and resulting in a rich performative experience of Plath’s poetry and her literal and artistic voice.

While lauded as a great American poet, many young readers encounter and are encouraged to foster readings of Sylvia Plath’s work as strictly autobiographical—each poem a clue or prophecy of her suicide. “Séance” acknowledges Plath’s death and moves beyond its fetishization, creating a lived experience with the poet and her body of work, centering her literal voice.

The séance began with the lighting of the quarter candles, a way to intentionally create a sacred space, while Sylvia Plath’s recorded readings began to play. From there, I led myself through a guided meditation, welcoming her voice and work and keeping my body relaxed and open and ready for the score. When moved, I moved with and through Plath’s voice, using a score that was derived from the musical particulars of Plath’s readings and some choice imagery from her poems. When the movement score was over, I slowly descended to the floor to a corpse pose as another recording played. I breathed. I awoke, thanked Sylvia, turned off the recordings, blew out the candles, and closed the circle.

The piece was performed during the COVID19 pandemic as part of my Art for Ancestors experiment. It was attended by my cat, Samhain.